Tag Archives: Josef Shomperlen Milwaukee Blog

US to donate $500,000 to conserve Mexico’s Palenque ruins

The U.S. Embassy will donate $500,000 to help conserve the tomb of king Pakal and other structures at the Mayan ruin site of Palenque, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said Monday.

The tomb is known for Pakal’s magnificent carved sarcophagus. It was built in Palenque’s Temple of Inscriptions sometime after 683 B.C. and was discovered around 1952.

Since then, the tomb’s stucco decorations have been damaged by humidity, and there are structural issues with that temple and others at Palenque.

The institute said the embassy will provide the money over three years to conduct studies about how to keep the structures sound and free of humidity.

The tomb has been closed to the public for years for conservation. It is unclear if it will ever be opened again.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/us-donate-500000-conserve-mexicos-palenque-ruins-51575360

YouTube says over 10,000 workers will help curb shady videos

YouTube is hiring more people to help curb videos that violate its policies.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said “some bad actors are exploiting” the Google-owned service to “mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm.”

Google will have more than 10,000 workers address the problem by next year, though her blog post Monday doesn’t say how many the company already has. Spokeswoman Michelle Slavich said Tuesday that some have already been hired, and the team will be a combination of employees and contractors.

Wojcicki said the company will apply lessons learned from combating violent and extremist videos to other “problematic” videos. YouTube will expand the use of “machine-learning” technology, a new form of artificial intelligence, to flag videos or comments that show hate speech or harm to children. It’s already been using the technology to help remove violent extremist videos.

Several advertisers have reportedly pulled ads from YouTube in the past few weeks as a result of stories about videos showing harm to children, hate speech and other topics they don’t want their ads next to. Some 250 advertisers earlier this year also said they would boycott YouTube because of extremist videos that promoted hate and violence. YouTube said Monday that it is also taking steps to try to reassure advertisers that their ads won’t run next to gross videos.

There have been reports of creepy videos aimed at children and pedophiles posting comments on children’s videos in recent weeks. There was also a conspiracy-theory video that came up in a YouTube search a day after the October Las Vegas shooting that killed dozens.

Google isn’t the only tech company that’s stepping up human content reviews to help it police its platform after criticism. Facebook in May said it would hire 3,000 more people to review videos and posts, and, later, another 1,000 to review ads after discovering Russian ads meant to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/youtube-10000-workers-curb-shady-videos-51589184

Ireland to start collecting $15 billion in tax from Apple

Ireland has struck a deal with Apple to collect up to 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in back taxes and hold it in an escrow account pending an appeal before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The government said in a statement Monday that an agreement had been reached “in relation to the framework of the principles that will govern the escrow arrangements.”

The European Commission had ordered Ireland to collect the money after concluding that two Irish tax rulings allowed Apple to pay less tax than other businesses — thus giving them an unfair advantage. The Commission ordered Ireland to collect back taxes for the years 2003-2014, which it estimated to be as much 13 billion euros plus interest.

Ireland disagreed with the Commission’s analysis and appealed the decision.

Apple said in a statement that it remains confident the court will overturn the commission’s decision once it has reviewed the evidence.

“The Commission’s case against Ireland has never been about how much Apple pays in taxes, it’s about which government gets the money,” Apple said in a statement. “The United States government and the Irish government both agree we’ve paid our taxes according to the law.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/ireland-start-collecting-15-billion-tax-apple-51583431

Trump science job nominees missing advanced science degrees

When it comes to filling jobs dealing with complex science, environment and health issues, the Trump administration is nominating people with fewer science academic credentials than their Obama predecessors. And it’s moving slower as well.

Of 43 Trump administration nominees in science-related positions — including two for Health and Human Services secretary — almost 60 percent did not have a master’s degree or a doctorate in a science or health field, according to an Associated Press analysis. For their immediate predecessors in the Obama administration, it was almost the opposite: more than 60 percent had advanced science degrees.

The AP analyzed 65 Senate-confirmable positions that deal with science and environment, many of which haven’t been filled yet after 10 months. The analysis focused on earned degrees, not life experience.

“This is just reflective of the disdain that the administration has shown for science,” said Christie Todd Whitman, a former Republican New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency chief.

“When you’re talking about science, issues about protecting human health…it’s very, very complicated and sophisticated work,” said Whitman, who was appointed by George W. Bush and does not have an advanced degree herself but surrounded herself with people who did. “You need the background and experience to handle these things.”

Including now-resigned Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a medical doctor, the number of political appointees with a doctorate in science or a medical degree dropped 21 percent from Obama’s 19 to Trump’s 15 in those equivalent positions. And when it comes to master’s degrees, the number decreased one-third from 27 in Obama to 18 in Trump.

Public health researcher Dr. Caroline Weinberg, who helped organize last spring’s protest March for Science, said in an email, “I knew the dire straits we were in but seeing it laid out with percentages really amplifies the horror.”

Trump administration officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

It is especially noticeable in the Energy Department, which oversees the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

None of the seven Trump energy science-oriented nominees — including the undersecretary for science, who did research while in the U.S. Navy — has even a master’s degree in a science field, although some are lawyers and have MBAs. Five of their Obama predecessor’s had master’s degrees in science field and four had science doctorates — not including the Obama deputy Energy secretary, who had a doctorate in international relations. The two Obama Energy secretaries both had doctorates in physics, and Steven Chu was a Nobel prize winner in physics. Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry has a bachelor’s degree in animal science and was a former governor.

“This is just hollowing out of expertise in these posts,” said Max Boykoff, director of Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado. “It’s a really worrisome trend.”

This isn’t about making jobs for science, but providing the best advice for government leaders who have to make tough decisions, said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

“It’s the policy-makers themselves who need it. If they want to develop policies that are most likely to succeed, they should make those policies with the understanding available of how things are,” said Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman from New Jersey. “We do this with the age-old, time-tested procedure of determining how things are. We call that science.”

The now-withdrawn undersecretary for research in the Agriculture Department told the Senate in a confirmation questionnaire that while he had an economics degree, he took no science classes in graduate school, according to his letter obtained by The Washington Post.

Many of the Trump nominees who do have advanced science degrees, especially those in the EPA, come from working in or with the industries that they are now supposed to regulate, with even some Republicans raising questions among the independence of their scientific advice. EPA chief Scott Pruitt also has raised eyebrows by purging academic scientists from the agency’s science advisory board because they received EPA grants and replacing them with industry-connected experts.

“The pattern of a repeated tilt toward industry scientists, and ones known for disparaging the record of the agencies they are appointed to, is worrisome,” said William K. Reilly, who was EPA administrator under George H.W. Bush.

Reilly, along with several of the more than a dozen outside experts interviewed, said people with scientific expertise are important, but there have been good top government officials in the past who were lawyers. Current EPA chief Pruitt is a lawyer.

“Some of the best regulators I have known have had law or business backgrounds (both parties),” John Graham, dean at Indiana University’s School of Public Environmental Affairs, said in an email.

Graham, who headed regulatory affairs in the George W. Bush administration, said he was most concerned that “many important nominations have not yet been made” highlighting no appointments for the top White House science adviser and head of research and development at the EPA.

In 35 percent of the 65 senate-confirmable positions that deal with science and environment, the Trump administration hasn’t nominated someone yet, including all four top positions at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Of the 23 positions that President Donald Trump hasn’t nominated anyone yet to fill after 10 months, Barack Obama had picked nominees in 18 of those posts by the same time in 2009.

“I don’t know if the problem is on the side of them identifying people or the people they want being willing to go through the process” of confirmation, which can be unpleasant, said George Gray, who was the EPA research chief for President George W. Bush and now is a professor of environmental health at George Washington University.

Initial Obama appointments included two winners of the Nobel Prize for physics — Energy Secretary Chu and Carl Wieman, who was associate director for science of the White House Office of Science and Technology — and a winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, White House science adviser John Holdren. Obama tried to appoint another Nobel winner, Peter Diamond who won the Nobel prize for economics, to the Federal Reserve Board. That was held up by Republicans in the Senate who said he didn’t have enough experience and his nomination was withdrawn.


Associated Press reporters Michael Biesecker, Catherine Lucey, Maureen Linke and Kevin Vineys contributed to this report.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears. His work can be found here.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/trump-science-job-nominees-missing-advanced-science-degrees-51587140

Bali volcano emits wispy plume of steam, flights resume

Gushing ash from Bali’s Mount Agung volcano has dissipated into a wispy plume of steam, and Australian airlines that canceled some flights to the Indonesian resort island on the weekend have returned to near-normal schedules.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said Monday the volcano remains at its highest alert level but most of Bali is safe for tourists.

The exclusion zone around the volcano still extends 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the crater in some directions. More than 55,000 people are living in shelters.

Airlines Jetstar and Virgin Australia, which canceled flights over the weekend even as the ash cloud shrank dramatically, said they were resuming services Monday.

The region’s volcanic ash monitoring center in Darwin, Australia, has stopped issuing advisories for Agung, reflecting that it’s currently posing no threat to aircraft. It would resume advisories if there’s another eruption.

Tens of thousands of tourists were stranded when ash closed Bali’s international airport for nearly three days last week.

Indonesian government volcanologists say Agung’s crater is about one-third filled by lava and there is still a high risk of more eruptions.

The volcano’s last major eruptions in 1963 killed more than 1,100 people and it was active for more than a year.

David Boutelier, a geologist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, said the chance of a violent explosion is still “very high” but possibly not as high as several weeks ago because pressure is being released.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/bali-volcano-emits-wispy-plume-steam-flights-resume-51554007

AP Explains: National monuments and why they’re divisive

President Donald Trump signed proclamations Monday to significantly shrink two large national monuments in Utah after his administration reviewed sites nationwide.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made recommendations earlier this year about 27 monuments, including some boundary and rule revisions but no eliminations. Trump has yet to announce decisions on the other protected lands besides the two monuments in Utah: Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.

The reduction in Utah is expected to trigger a legal battle.

A closer look at the issues that led to the review:



The 1906 Antiquities Act, enacted under President Theodore Roosevelt, empowers the president to declare as national monuments any landmarks, structures and other “objects of historic or scientific interest” on land owned or controlled by the federal government.

Roosevelt established 18 monuments, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Most presidents since then have designated additional monuments. Congress has created others.

Most monuments are overseen by the National Park Service, although rules for their protection are less strict than for national parks.

Some are cared for by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service or the Forest Service. Each agency has policies for safeguarding the land while also allowing some public use. For instance, policies can include limits on mining, timber cutting and recreational activities such as riding off-road vehicles.



Many national monument proclamations have enjoyed broad support. Others have been fiercely contested in Congress and the courts, including designations by Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jackson Hole National Monument, now Grand Teton National Park); Jimmy Carter (vast lands in Alaska); and George W. Bush (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument northwest of Hawaii).

Trump’s choice of Jan. 1, 1996, as the starting date for his review was prompted by lingering resentment among Utah conservatives of Bill Clinton’s designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that year.

Critics say presidents increasingly are protecting areas that are too large and do not fit the law’s original purpose of shielding particular historical or archaeological sites. Designating millions of acres for scientific observation or sheltering rare species, they contend, is a “federal land grab” that ignores the wishes of local residents, although the lands already belonged to the government or were under federal control.

Zinke says the pendulum has swung too far toward protecting public lands and away from the “multiple use” concept advanced by Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Service and an early leader in the conservation movement.

Monument supporters say the designations are essential to protect sensitive areas from looting and damage. Complaints about people getting kicked off the land are exaggerated, they say, and opposition fades as nearby communities benefit from tourism the monuments attract.

A recent study by the nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics found that indicators such as employment, population and per capita income held steady or improved in sections of the U.S. West where monuments larger than 10,000 acres had been established since 1981.



Some monuments have been downsized over the years, either by presidential order or by Congress, while others have been enlarged. No such actions have been contested in court. No president has tried to revoke a predecessor’s designation of a monument.

The Antiquities Act does not explicitly say whether a president can nullify a monument proclamation or reduce a monument’s area. A legal analysis commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association cites a 1938 opinion by then-Attorney General Homer Cummings, who wrote that a monument designation has the force of law and can be reversed only by Congress.

A House report accompanying the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 agreed, as do some environmental attorneys.

But a study for the conservative American Enterprise Institute released in March argues that when Congress authorizes the executive branch to write regulations, the power to repeal them generally can be assumed. That’s especially so, it says, when a president is correcting a predecessor’s act that exceeded what a law intended — such as creating vast monuments when the Antiquities Act says they should consist of “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”



Environmental and Native American tribes plan to sue to stop the reductions at the Utah monuments, which will likely trigger a lengthy court battle. They have vowed to challenge any other downsizing, too.

The fate of other monuments under review awaits Trump’s action. It’s not known when he will make those announcements.

Congressional Republicans have measures pending that would deny the president unilateral authority to designate future monuments, requiring approval of Congress or the governors and legislatures in affected states. Some would add further conditions.

The House Committee on Natural Resources approved legislation in October that would prohibit new monuments larger than 85,000 acres or within 50 miles of an existing one. Designations of areas larger than 10,000 acres would need backing from affected counties and states. Presidents could reduce the size of existing monuments, in some cases unilaterally and in others with approval of state and local officials.

The bill, which was introduced by Utah Republican Rep. Rob Porter and is awaiting a floor vote, also would limit what is eligible for protection under the Antiquities Act to “objects of antiquity” such as relics, artifacts and fossils. Designations no longer could be made on the basis of historical or scientific interest.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/ap-explains-national-monuments-divisive-51569586

Monuments being reduced hold cliff dwellings, scenic cliffs

Two national monuments in Utah that President Donald Trump is going to significantly reduce include ancient cliff dwellings and scenic canyons as well as areas that could be used for energy development.

Trump made his announcement about Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments during a speech Monday in Salt Lake City. The sites were among 27 that Trump ordered U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review this year.

Environmental groups plan to take Trump to court to preserve the original boundaries of the monuments.

A closer look at the two monuments set to be downsized:



Barack Obama created the monument shortly before leaving the White House, marking a victory for Native Americans and conservationists. It was a blow to Republican leaders who campaigned to prevent what they call a layer of unnecessary federal control that hurts local economies by closing the area to new energy development.

Tucked between existing national parks and the Navajo Nation, the monument is on land considered sacred to a coalition of tribes and is home to an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites. Tribal members visit the area to perform ceremonies, collect herbs and wood for medicinal and spiritual purposes, and do healing rituals.

The monument features a mix of cliffs, plateaus, towering rock formations, rivers and canyons. It brings visitors to enjoy hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, mountain biking and rock climbing.



As president, Bill Clinton created the monument in 1996 to preserve scenic cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and arches. Actor and Utah resident Robert Redford appeared at the ceremony.

In heavily Republican Utah, the move was viewed as federal overreach that still irks GOP officials. Many Utah Republicans and some residents say it closed off too many areas to development — including one of the country’s largest known coal reserves — that could have helped pay for schools.

Zinke noted in a memo to Trump that “several billion tons of coal and large oil deposits” lie within the monument’s boundaries. He also said that while the amount of cattle grazing allowed there is the same as it was in 1996, the number of cows has decreased because of restrictions on moving water lines, vegetation management and maintenance of fences and roads.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/monuments-reduced-hold-cliff-dwellings-scenic-cliffs-51568945

NASA nails test on Voyager spacecraft, 13 billion miles away

NASA has nailed an engine test on a spacecraft 13 billion miles away.

Last week, ground controllers sent commands to fire backup thrusters on Voyager 1, our most distant spacecraft. The thrusters had been idle for 37 years, since Voyager 1 flew past Saturn.

To NASA’s delight, the four dormant thrusters came alive. It took more than 19 hours — the one-way travel time for signals — for controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to get the good news.

Engineers wanted to see if these alternate thrusters could point Voyager 1′s antenna toward Earth, a job normally handled by a different set that’s now degrading. The thrusters will take over pointing operations next month. The switch could extend Voyager 1′s life by two to three years.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft traveling through interstellar space, the region beyond our solar system. Voyager 2 is close on its heels — nearly 11 billion miles from Earth. The thruster test worked so well that NASA expects to try it on Voyager 2. That won’t happen anytime soon, though, because Voyager 2′s original thrusters are still working fine.

The Voyager flight team dug up old records and studied the original software before tackling the test. As each milestone in the test was achieved, the excitement level grew, said propulsion engineer Todd Barber.

“The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” he said in a statement.

The twin Voyagers provided stunning close-up views of Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 also offered shots of Uranus and Neptune.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/nasa-nails-test-voyager-spacecraft-13-billion-miles-51563997

WATCH: Automation set to take over American jobs

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WATCH: Volvo offers subscription model

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